"She saw: first, a square opening, about eight inches wide, in the lowest step...finally she saw that there was a walnut shell, or half one, outside the nearest door...she went to look at the shell—but looked with the greatest astonishment. There was a baby in it."
So ten-year-old Maria, orphaned mistress of Malplaquet, discovers the secret of her deteriorating estate: on a deserted island at its far corner, in the temple long ago nicknamed Mistress Masham's Repose, live an entire community of people—"The People," as they call themselves—all only inches tall. With the help of her only friend—the absurdly erudite Professor—Maria soon learns that this settlement is no less than the kingdom of Lilliput (first seen in Gulliver's Travels) in exile. Safely hidden for centuries, the Lilliputians are at first endangered by Maria's well-meaning but clumsy attempts to make their lives easier, but their situation grows truly ominous when they are discovered by Maria's greedy guardians, who look at The People and see only a bundle of money.
About the Author
Terence Hanbury White (1906–1964) was born in Bombay, India, and educated at Queen’s College, Cambridge. His childhood was unhappy—”my parents loathed each other,” he later wrote—and he grew up to become a solitary person with a deep fund of strange lore and a tremendous enthusiasm for fishing, hunting, and flying (which he took up to overcome his fear of heights). White taught for some years at the Stowe School until the success in 1936 of England Have My Bones, a book about outdoor adventure, allowed him to quit teaching and become a full-time writer. Along with The Goshawk, White was the author of twenty-six published works, including his famed sequence of Arthurian novels, The Once and Future King; the fantasy Mistress Masham’s Repose (published in The New York Review Children’s Collection); a collection of essays on the eighteenth century, The Age of Scandal; and a translation of a medieval Latin bestiary, A Book of Beasts. He died at sea on his way home from an American lecture tour and is buried in Piraeus, Greece.
Fritz Eichenberg (1901-1990) was born and raised in Germany, where he became a successful political cartoonist. The rise of Hitler made him worry about his family’s safety, and in 1933 he left Germany for the United States, where he illustrated classics such as Crime and Punishment and Wuthering Heights, along with the pages of Dorothy Day’s radical news-sheet The Catholic Worker. Eichenberg also founded the Pratt Graphic Arts Center in Manhattan. He considered his teaching work “ a debt I have paid off to this country. . . . I’m very fond of America as a country that has welcomed so many people from different parts of the world without asking questions.”